They arrived early, eagerly awaiting something that had eluded them for years: keys to a home of their own.
Carla McCue and her husband, Lawrence — a 75-year-old Marine Corps veteran — lived for years first in a motor home and then in their beat-up Jeep Grand Cherokee. Their story, like so many other homeless veterans and homeless senior citizens, was one of financial deprivation, health struggles and the inability to find a stable and sustainable living arrangement.
It all culminated this year, when Carla retired from her job and the couple moved from the neighborhood near Los Angeles International Airport that was close to her job to the parking lot of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Los Angeles campus. With the help of a caseworker, they began the process to receive housing and waited for months, only to learn that their application for the apartment had been rejected.
The Los Angeles Times recently detailed the McCues’ story of hardship, and the response was swift. Days after the story was published, Antoinette Monts, a case manager from the People Concern, a social services agency, received a call from her boss who had a simple message: Let’s help the McCues get a home.
Monts quickly reached out to the couple, did an intake interview and helped them get a housing voucher through a different program that had previously helped them. In about a week, Monts set the McCues up in a one-bedroom apartment in the complex next to the one from which they had been rejected.
Recently, the McCues moved into their new home.
“This is their day,” Monts said, as new arrivals waited in the community room to sign their leases and get their keys. “They should be excited.”
Lawrence purchased new white-leather Stacy Adams shoes for the occasion, and Carla bought new earrings. They drove two cars to the new apartment — their beat-up Jeep and a 2004 blue Ford Expedition gifted to them by a fellow veteran who read their story. The McCues hope to refurbish the Jeep and donate it to another veteran.
Pat Cohen, founder of Safe Parking L.A., has been helping the McCues keep track of the goodwill coming their way. Cohen, whose organization allows homeless people to sleep in their vehicles without worrying about being arrested, says she sees people like the McCues all the time.
“Most of our veterans are older in the lot, and they are really amazing, considering the hardship they go through,” she said.
There are only 12 spots on the VA campus, but Cohen expects that number to jump to 50 soon. If she can raise more money, she’ll open more lots around the city.
As the couple waited in the new building, Carla could barely contain her excitement, fidgeting and planning what needed to get done. She asked her husband if he needed his oxygen machine and kept an eye on their dog Oreo, who sat between her legs. At one point, she asked if they could move in that day. The answer was yes.
“We are just stoked, so thrilled,” she said.
Eventually, the property manager took them to their third-floor unit for a quick inspection before they signed the lease. A broad smile overtook Carla’s face when she saw the boxes of cutlery and plates on the table. Then she saw her new bedroom and immediately flopped down on the mattress. Oreo jumped on the couch and began rubbing himself against the pillows, acclimating to his new home. And Lawrence moved from his scooter to a chair, quietly watching the scene.
“It’s our little slice of heaven,” he said.
Then they went downstairs to sign the lease, and the apartment, which will cost roughly 30 percent of their income of about $1,700, was theirs.
The McCues now have a place to call home.